Alfred University News

Faculty and students recognized at Alfred University Honors Convocation

ALFRED, NY – Alfred University celebrated its students and faculty Friday afternoon, April 19, during the annual Honors Convocation, held in Miller Theater. Among the honorees were Angie Taylor, chief diversity officer and Title IX coordinator, who received the prestigious Abigail Allen Award, and students Brian Ngatunga and Emilia Donenberg Smith, winners of the Marlin Miller Outstanding Senior Award.

Juliana Gray, professor of English and director of the University’s Honors Program, served as master of ceremonies. Addressing the gathering of honored students, faculty and staff, family, and friends, she noted the honorees had “challenged themselves, pushed themselves (and) today we celebrate their truly impressive accomplishments.

Alfred University President Mark Zupan quoted the French cooking master Julia Childs, who observed the secret ingredient in French cooking is lots of butter. “There’s a lot of butter in the room today,” Zupan said. “What you’ve accomplished has produced the butter.” Alluding to the recent COVID-challenged years, Zupan thanked students and faculty for their perseverance though adversity, further observing, “All that churning can stand you in wonderful stead.”

In awarding the Abigail Allen Award, Professor of German and History Sandra Singer, who serves also as director of the Women and Gender Studies program, praised Angie Taylor for her ability “to bring out the best in people.” Noting Taylor’s extensive world travels before her move to the Southern Tier, Singer said there must be “an amazing lucky star to bring Angie here to Alfred.”

Taylor began her career at Alfred University as head coach of men’s and women’s track and field and was named interim chief diversity officer prior to the 2022-23 academic year. Her appointment has since been made permanent, and she also took on the role of Title IX coordinator.

Students have cited Taylor for bringing positive change to the University by bringing diverse people together to build a community. She is considered a mentor to students, who see her as a model of what it means to be a global citizen.

In addition to honoring faculty and students, the Honors Convocation also is an occasion for celebrating the annual Marlin Miller Outstanding Senior Award recipients. Dean of Student Experience Thomas Orrange presented the award to both Ngatunga and Smith, noting they had been chosen on the basis of their scholarship, extracurricular achievement, personal character and conduct.  The Outstanding Senior Award was established to honor Alfred University alumnus Marlin Miller ’54, HD ’89, ’19, a Life Trustee and Board of Trustees Chair emeritus, and one of Alfred University’s most generous supporters.

Ngatunga, from Mwanza, Tanzania, is set to graduate one year early with a bachelor’s degree in business analytics and a minor in marketing with a 3.95 grade-point average. An Honors Program student, Ngatunga has been inducted into the Delta Mu Delta, Alpha Kappa Phi, Pi Gamma, Mu Kappa Tau, Alpha Iota Delta, Beta Gamma Sigma, and Omicron Delta Kappa honor societies and serves as president of the latter.

Smith, from Wilmette, IL, is pursuing a dual degree in fine arts and physics. She has a cumulative grade-point average of 3.89. The recipient of a Presidential Scholarship, Smith participates in the Honors Program at Alfred University. She is the recipient of the 2023 Natasha Goldowski Renner Prize in Physics and a 2023 American Ceramic Society (ACerS) Scientific Creativity Award.

Several other faculty members were also recognized during the Honors Convocation.

John Simmins, director of the Center for Advanced Ceramic Technology (CACT), was presented with the John F. McMahon Excellence in Ceramic Teaching Award. The award is presented annually in honor of John F. McMahon for his many years of dedicated service to the University as both a professor and dean.

Thirteen faculty members received the Joseph Kruson Trust Fund Awards for Excellence in Teaching, with recipients chosen based on a student vote. Following are the 2024 winners: Amy Button-Ervin, associate professor of psychology; Bradford Daly, assistant professor of school psychology; Andrew Deutsch, professor of sound design and video arts; Shelly Freyn, associate professor of marketing; Geremy Grant, assistant professor of school psychology; Julia Langdal-Sittu, assistant professor of psychology;  Garrett McGowan, professor of chemistry; Joseph Petrillo, professor of mathematics; Angus Powers, professor of glass; Robert Reginio, professor of English; Melissa Ryan, professor of English; Linda Sikora, professor of ceramic art; and Xingwu Wang, professor of electrical engineering.

Sikora was also received the Joseph Kruson Award for Distinguished Service to Alfred University. The award is presented in recognition of long and dedicated service, commitment to academic quality, and the strong sense of humanity shown to students. The recipient has been venerated by Alfred alumni and professionals beyond the Alfred community. She is widely respected by the campus community, which includes students who have judged her to be an outstanding teacher, faculty colleagues, and members of the administration.

Seven faculty members—one from each academic unit—were presented with Faculty Scholar Awards in recognition of excellence in research and scholarship. The 2024 awardees are: Collen Wahl, assistant professor or dance, Performing Arts Division; Maria Planansky, collection management librarian, University Libraries; Angeline Felber, assistant professor of counseling, School of Graduate and Continuing Studies; Robert Maiden, professor of psychology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; S.K. Sundaram, Inamori Professor of materials science and engineering, Inamori School of Engineering; Linda Sikora, professor of ceramic art, School of Art and Design; and Shelly Freyn, associate professor of marketing, College of Business.

Two students—Olivia Gilbert and Emilia Donenberg Smith—were honored as recipients of the State University of New York (SUNY) Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence. The award recognizes model students who have integrated academic excellence with other aspects of their lives, which may include the arts (creative and performing), athletics, career achievement, community service or leadership.

Thirty-five students were honored as Alfred University Scholars, an award recognizing the seniors who have completed the requirements of the Alfred University Honors Program. The 2024 recipients are: Tyler Armak, Kenneth Berlin, Audrey Buddendeck, Megan Callaghan, Cailean Cavanaugh, Sienna Cefalu, Bianca Durso, Bryce Easter, Mairin Farchione, Natalie Farchione, Josefina Fasolino, Kathryn Geiger, Olivia Gilbert, Nicholas Goetze, Kirsten Gollhofer, Anna Gwozdz, Derek Harrington, Mia Heidenreich, Mari Jablonski, Corrine Kayes, Sarah Lutkins, Brian Ngatunga, Monica Nowik, Natalie Reynolds, Samantha Sage, Emilia-Qian Shen, Cecilia Sherwood, Kylie Simkins, Emilia Donenberg Smith, Aleksey Strekalov, Kaitlin Villanueva, Karenna Waite, Lucas Young, Macy Youngberg, and Zulaikha Yusuff.